My MOOC journey – 2

2 06 2017

Part 1 Part 3

So, how did it all start? I don’t recall how I came to know about Coursera but I distinctly remember my exhilaration at discovering such a platform. My first MOOC was “Model Thinking” from University of Michigan. By any stretch, it’s my first taste of international academic teaching and I was thrilled. I was really impressed by how well the complex and otherwise models related to social science are explained and demonstrated. And then I took “Networked Life” offered by University of Pennsylvania and then Computing for data Analysis, an R programming course from John Hopkins. Ever since I explored lot of courses and many platforms.

Out of my over-enthusiasm, I sometimes enroll in multiple MOOCs simultaneously, which was fine in the beginning when there weren’t too many options to pick from. But these days, with the plethora of offerings available out there, one can’t risk being impulsive anymore. I need to pick and choose carefully, and also time them appropriately to accommodate my regular life’s demands so that I can enjoy the learning without getting stressed or burned out.

Focused learning is so exhausting, I really welcome the break of “no MOOC months” after a stretch of intensive courses, like the one I took in 2014 after my data science courses from John Hopkins. Also, I catch myself if I’m being over-ambitious by taking on too much and don’t hesitate to drop from the courses. Most of my unfinished courses are drop-outs rather than discontinuation due to expectations not being met.

My main motivation for going on a learning spree is more to broaden my knowledge base rather than to deep dive in any particular discipline or skill. So, I can usually manage at least a couple of light-weight MOOCs at the same time. I derive most pleasure learning about new topics- just introductory courses, without requiring much effort beyond watching the video lectures and taking the quizzes. I like it when I tend to come across same studies, theories, concepts across seemingly different disciplines. I clearly enjoy the cross-discipline synthesis a lot. For example, studies like Milgram’s prison experiment on effects of perceived power, Sheena Iyengar’s jam experiment on choice, pantyhose experiment on our hidden biases etc. have been referred to in seemingly varied disciplines like neuro-economics, philosophy, social psychology, science of happiness, scientific thinking and more.

MOOC word cloud2

So, what do I like in a MOOC? I like intelligently devised quizzes to test comprehension rather than testing the memory about specific studies or facts described in the lectures. I like them when too much content is not crammed into the slides and the course. Also, I would like enough repetition of key concepts, to ensure higher chance of comprehension and retention. I experienced such repetition in my recent course – Neuro-economics. For a person coming from a non-science background, the course introduced lot of terms and concepts, but strategic repetition of key terms (brain areas and their functions) helped me to progress through the course with more confidence. Pictures and animation definitely help. Cheerful professors and lively and engaging discourses also get me more involved. However, “too upbeat” kind of makes me uncomfortable. But it’s just a personal preference.



My MOOC journey – 1

31 05 2017

Part 2    Part 3

MOOCs have revolutionized learning in true sense. Though the true origins of MOOCs can be traced back to distance learning, they have undoubtedly gained wide popularity with the advent of Internet and other associated technologies. Ever since the inception of Coursera in 2012, they have become widespread and they have been in vogue ever since. And why not? It’s truly praiseworthy and remarkable that renowned educational institutions and pioneers in various fields have come forward to impart the knowledge and skills to everyone surpassing all boundaries. Several MOOC platforms sprang up offering completely free courses, while simultaneously adding more and more disciplines and courses.  And most of the MOOCs are still free, and at least let you audit for free. MOOCs have brought world-class teaching and material to the doorstep of anyone who can afford a network connection.

Coursera has started out as everything free, and later  introduced optional pay for verified certificate for most courses. And now, many of them are strictly pay courses, while some of them allow one to audit for free. Udacity was the first platform which introduced paid courses and nanodegrees designed by tech giants like Google etc. Likewise, statements of accomplishments were offered on successful completion of all free courses in the beginning, but not so much these days. However, most paid versions of MOOCs have affordable pricing, which provide authentic verified certificates.

Class-central, an aggregator of MOOCs across all platforms and universities, and provides a one stop place to find and track your interests and enrollments. It also provides helpful recommendations and articles based on popularity and student feedback. It is so easy to get lost in the ocean of MOOCs offered. And for beginners, it’s a very good avenue to start looking to get the sense of what courses are available out there.

For obsessive learners like me, MOOCs have proved to be a boon. I took courses from several platforms including

  • Coursera
  • Edx
  • Open 2 Study
  • Udacity

These platforms provide such a wide variety of courses, ranging from simple, introductory ones to more advanced courses as well. When I browse the ever expanding catalogs, I feel like a kid in the candy shop. 😛 I have completed over 30 MOOCs so far, but I’m not by any means a super MOOCer. This is over a period of about 5 years, so it’s not bad. 😉


These are just the boring statistics. Stay tuned for the interesting reflection on my motivations, MOOC highs and lows, challenges, and more in the subsequent posts. 🙂

My Sony Reader

22 07 2010

It’s been a month since I got my Sony Reader PRS-600BC. Initially I wanted to go for Amazon Kindle but its price tag put me off. I had to do a lot of research online, comparing features and reading reviews, before I chose Sony.

I faced some difficulty trying to decide which one suits me the best and I perceived the lack of proper advice/recommendation as a source of frustration. There were more than a few options available in the market with attractive offerings but it seemed that the ideal gadget that would fit my needs was only a dream at that time.

A lot of work, thinking, and time went into buying this one. I would like to present here the outline of the process I underwent and the criteria I used to come to the final decision so that anyone out there in the same shoes as I was would find it useful.

As I told you before, Kindle was my first choice. It might be because I thought, for some reason which might be true or not, that it’s the most popular one and the first choice of many others. But I was not keen on spending around $330 (Kindle Global – $260 + Cover – $35 +Tax) for something I guessed I wouldn’t use too much.

It’s just my bad luck that Amazon has reduced its price to $189 after I bought my Sony Reader. 😦 Looks like everyone has reduced their prices since I bought my e-reader.

Later when Barnes & Nobel’s Nook came out, I looked at it too and was attracted to its color panel, expandable memory and more supported formats. But the price was on par with Kindle and also there had been no global version of it at that time (I’m not sure whether there is one even now). I wanted to have something that works not just in USA and so, Nook didn’t really give a strong competition to Kindle.

Before I discuss the other products I’ve considered, let me first put down what I was really looking for in an electronic reader:

  • Inexpensive
  • Support for epub, pdf, word, txt formats
  • Ease of use
  • Ability to add notes
  • Dictionary look-up

Of course, an electronic reader offers more than just enabling people to read books. There are loads of nice-to-have features out there but the ones that I don’t really care about include:

  • Wi-Fii/3G
  • Text to Speech
  • MP3 Player

Wi-Fi/3G feature didn’t actually attract me because I don’t travel much and have no issues with connecting the Reader to my laptop to buy/transfer books. And I’m the person who always prefers reading to listening to her books.  About music – well, I can’t multi-task. 🙂

Based on the above criteria, I plunged forward and managed to keep aside Kindle for a moment while I considered other options.

On the lower end were a couple of products – Sony eReader Pocket Edition PRS-300 ($150- on sale price) and the not yet arrived Kobo ($150).

Sony Pocket Edition instantly put me off by its smaller screen size (5”) compared to 6” of all others. Also it can hold only 350 books max at a time. The product seemed very inflexible, with bare functionality.

I then looked into the features of Borders’ Kobo. The display of book cover looked definitely cool but it’s not a core feature and I can’t really choose it just for that petty nice-to-have. Reviews were confusing and the fact that the product won’t be available in the market for another ten days made me disregard it.

I searched for and read reviews for all the above mentioned products. I was dumbfounded by what I found. I was more confused after reading all that stuff than before. The thing is there were both good and bad reviews for each of them.

I was surprised to find Sony Touch Edition at the number one position in the Top 5 list by PC World. I must say, that article clearly changed my perception and for the first time I seriously considered Sony. Also, Sony Touch Edition was available for $200 at that time (sale price), which was fine for me.

And then I looked into a few reviews of Sony and comparisons of it with Kindle and others. The things I liked about Sony were:

  • Robust metallic frame (in contrast to plastic ones for others)
  • Speed
  • Support for formats I want
  • Ease of use of the software
  • Expandable memory (For Touch Edition)
  • Touch Screen (Touch Edition)

I almost shouted  “yahoo!” in joy at finding my ideal electronic Reader. But my excitement was short-lived. The loudest criticism I read about Sony’s Touch Edition was the blinding “glare”. I was really concerned about this negative remark, in an otherwise perfect product. At that point, I was desperately looking for even a feeble affirmation that the glare isn’t that bad but there was none.

I even went to a local Borders store and looked at both the Pocket Edition and Touch Edition. Sure, there was glare for the Touch Edition but I actually fell in love with the Touch Screen – the ability to turn the pages with the flick of a finger, to look up the dictionary by taping on a word. It also seemed that making notes and annotations is a lot easier on the touch screen.

So, finally I decided to put up with the glare in order to enjoy all the goodies. I placed the order and secretly hoped and prayed that the glare wouldn’t bother me too much.

I’ve read three books on it so far and I must say I’m enjoying it a lot. It is exactly what it promised. I got that much-hated glare along with its superior features. The glare does bother (but it’s not unmanageable). I haven’t yet really used all the features, satisfied at this point by just opening a book and turning the pages. Looking forward to leverage the touch screen in the coming days…

I always thought that I would prefer a print book to an electronic book on any day but with my cute eReader in my hands now, I’m not so sure about it. 🙂